Smiling bearded voice actor holding a water bottle

How Do You Maintain a Healthy Voice?

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Maintaining a healthy voice is one of the most important requirements of being a professional voice actor. While many outsiders who are unfamiliar with voice acting probably most associate the profession with the crisp, resonant voices they hear as part of a finished recording, there is a lot of hard work and sacrifices that occurs behind the scenes to ensure that those voices remain in tip-top shape. Just like any professional singer, a voice actor’s vocal health is both their instrument and the foundation of their business. 

Some steps that voice actors must take to maintain a healthy voice are inherently lifestyle changes. This may involve everything from being more selective about one’s diet and what one consumes in general, to implementing regular vocal rest, to establishing a regimented vocal warm up routine. While a change to one’s daily habits may not initially appear to have a huge, enduring impact, certain daily actions may actually be wearing down a voice actor’s vocal cords over an extended period of time. 

What you consume and how you use your voice during a period when you’re in the midst of carrying out a big recording, like providing narration for an audiobook or an animated film, will also probably be more strict than what you consume and how you use your voice during a period when you aren’t planning to record. 

There are other precautions that voice actors are most likely to put into practice as soon as they notice that they may be developing a hoarse voice or getting sick. It may sound like a quip, but it’s important to listen to the sound of your voice and what your body is communicating to you. If you notice that your vocal health is declining, this article includes several tips that you can count on to improve and maintain a healthy voice. 

Here are some suggestions for how to preserve your vocal cords and maintain a healthy voice:

Drink plenty of water

H2O keeps your vocal cords lubricated, so anytime you’re recording, you ought to have a glass of water nearby. Drinking water not only keeps you hydrated and your voice sounding fresh, but it also prevents headaches. You should try to drink at least eight glasses, or 64 ounces, of water in a day. 

It’s also never a bad idea to supplement your water intake with foods that naturally contain large amounts of water—including fruit like apples, watermelon, melons, cucumbers, etc. 

Avoid caffeine and alcohol 

Both caffeine and alcohol should be consumed in moderation—and definitely not on the same day that you’re planning to record a vocal performance. Alcohol is known to irritate the mucous membranes that line your throat, and they can both dry your vocal folds and/or larynx. 

Take ‘vocal naps’ throughout the day

When you’re exerting your voice for a recording, or just speaking for an extended period of time—whether you’re delivering a presentation or rehearsing a script—you should really take regular breaks throughout the day to keep your voice from deteriorating. Instead of chatting with friends in your downtime, go somewhere quiet and give your voice a rest. Vocal naps are like the voice actor’s equivalent of rest days for bodybuilders.

Professional voice actor Jesse Adam imparts his tips for preserving his vocal cords while working from home: “Get out of your studio/booth/closet/blanket fort and go do something different for an hour or two. The auditions will still be there when you get back and you’ll be in a better headspace to read ‘em.”

Be careful not to misuse your voice 

When you scream, shout, and speak loudly, it puts strain on your vocal cords. Be conscious of how often you’re raising your voice, and try your best to keep the moments when you are yelling or amplifying your voice to a bare minimum. Actors who work in live theater are often tasked with projecting their voice for hours at a time, but one benefit of recording your voice in a studio is that you’re not required to strain your voice by amplifying it when you’re speaking into a microphone, since the microphone will pick up any softer sounds and nuances in your vocal performance.

Quit smoking 

Inhaling smoke of any kind irritates your vocal cords, and can even lead to permanent vocal damage. Everything that you breathe in passes over your vocal cords, so smoking cigarettes, vaping, or even breathing in pollutants and particles of dust may have some impact on your vocal cords.

Clear your throat less often

While you may clear your throat as a natural reflex, doing this can actually be harmful to your voice. When you’re faced with the urge to clear your throat, it may be better to swallow, or take a sip of water. Clearing your throat is like slamming your vocal cords together, so when you do it too often, you run the risk of making your voice hoarse. 

Listen to your voice

Familiarize yourself with the signs of strained vocal cords. When your voice becomes hoarse or scratchy, it’s a clear warning sign that you should refrain from speaking and take some time to recover. Strained vocal cords will sometimes feel like a pinching sensation at the back of your throat. 

The important thing is that you do not push through a recording when you’re afflicted with a hoarse voice. Take some time to rest and recover. It typically takes a few days of rest before your voice returns to normal. You’ll thank yourself later. 

If your hoarseness hasn’t subsided after two or three weeks, then you should see your doctor. 

Find ways to manage your stress levels 

You may not expect it, but a voice actor’s vocal performance can actually be heavily impacted by their stress levels. When stress builds up over time, it can manifest in physical symptoms, including muscle tension in one’s jaw, digestive issues, or trouble getting a good night’s sleep. 

Many professional voice actors who work from home suggest taking periodic breaks from their home studio setups in order to get some fresh air. “We are in the isolation booth and behind a computer for so many hours a day,” says professional voice actor Kristy Reed. “Sometimes a quiet walk is all it takes to center my thoughts, recharge my energy, and bring a brightness to my voice.” 

Humidify your home

Being immersed in a dry environment can affect the sound of your voice. Especially if you’re based in a dry climate, or during wintertime, breathing properly humidified air can go a long way to keep your voice in a healthy condition. Humidifying your home is a wise idea, especially if that’s where you’re doing the bulk of your recording.

Do some vocal warmups before recording

Warming up your voice will ensure that you’re equipped to deliver your best performance when you step up to a microphone. There are a number of key vocal warm ups that you ought to integrate into your repertoire, from whole body stretches to tongue twisters. 

A group of professional voice actors, the Voices Insiders, were eager to share their favorite vocal exercises with us.

Vocal Remedies For Singers

When you have a sore throat, phlegm up to your ears, or your vocal cords are entirely tired out, what can you do to make your voice sound (and perform) as usual?

When it comes to treating physical ailments that affect your voice, what are your favorite remedies?

Susan Eichhorn Young, a widely respected Canadian singing teacher and musical theatre coach now based in New York City, has suggested trying out this remedy when suffering from congestion. First, boil some sliced ginger root with lemon rinds in water on the stove for a few hours. After a few hours have passed, strain the liquid, and then consume the water while it is still a fairly warm temperature. This trick can work wonders. 

During her time at Western University, Susan Eichhorn Young also recommended using raspberry-flavored zinc lozenges to help combat a sore throat. Again, a tried and true method that has a delightful taste. 

For minor irritations, one of the best practices is to consume a warm cup of lemon herbal tea (don’t add sugar), get some vocal rest, and last but not least, settle in for a good night’s sleep. These remedies may do the trick, especially when fatigue is the primary source of the vocal irritation. Of course, one of the best roads to take when maintaining the health of your instrument is prevention. 

Do you have any tried and true remedies to share? Let us know in the comments!

Vocal Health Is Important

Maintaining a healthy voice isn’t merely important for professionals who spend their days recording vocal performances and responding to voice over casting calls. Singers, teachers, lawyers, salespeople, public speakers, and a number of people employed in other professions all rely on their vocal health in their day-to-day work, and are thus often the first to develop vocal problems. About 18 million adults in the United States deal with vocal disorders, many of which can be countered by implementing the above strategies to maintain vocal health. 

Whether you’re making your first forays into the world of voice acting, or you’re a seasoned professional—or you work in an entirely different field altogether—taking the steps to maintain good vocal health is an essential precaution that will ensure you can always accomplish your pursuits to the best of your ability. 

Keep those vocal cords in top form and sign up for a Voices talent account to audition for voice over jobs in order to showcase your talent to the world.

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Comments

  • Dave Mann
    July 7, 2006, 2:45 pm

    Lots of water, no cigarette smoking and keeping conversations to a minimum when not working.

    Reply
  • Russ Holen
    July 7, 2006, 9:50 pm

    In my 27 years of radio, I found one thing for sure—if I had a meal before I broadcast a football or basketball game, NOT to consume any dairy products– it coats the throat! I also like VERY MUCH the resonance my voice has the morning after broadcasting a ball game.

    Reply
  • W. Edwards
    July 8, 2006, 7:42 am

    There used to be a very tiny throat lounge for speakers imported from England called “Meloids.” Fabulous! Anyone see them around?
    Licorice is legendary for quick recuperation. It also makes you retain fluid.
    Anyone try this?
    http://www.entertainers-secret.com/

    Reply
  • Pamela Johnston
    July 8, 2006, 1:26 pm

    I use this daily to keep my nose and throat clear of congestion. I use non-iodine salt water in a container with a micromist nasal sprayer, inhaling 8 “sniffs” per nostril. Then I lean over and allow the solution to roll about the sinuses. When upright again everything rolls down the back of your throat. I know it sounds horrible, but it really works and I never, ever get a sinus condition any more. Be sure to use enough salt in the water to be a little uncomfortable the first time you use it. You’ll get used to it, and the benefit is worth the trouble. I don’t know about others, but if I use lozenges such as Ricola too much when my throat is tired I start to get a ‘wet mouth’ sound, so I use them as little as I can when recording.

    Reply
  • Jim Sanders Beasley
    July 8, 2006, 5:29 pm

    As a singer and voice actor I can verify that the theater myth about potato chips in the dressing room works (at least for me). You get some carbs for energy and alertness, salt to cut the whatever in your vocal aparatus and the oil or grease lubes things. We are talking about just a handful here, taken like medicine not an eating disorder, of course. If you are about to record you will need to do a bit of water just before you speak. It sounds wrong, but is works. Other than chips, I never eat close to performance because of food allergies or something that causes drain.

    Reply
  • Bob
    July 12, 2006, 8:22 am

    I sometimes have a problem with congestion associated with allergies. During the allergy season (which seems to keep expanding from year to year for me!) I will sometimes take a product with guaifenesin in it, such as Mucinex. It’s designed to break up the phlegm and it also dries me out some. This might be an extreme case, but it works for those times when you can’t wait for it to clear up on it’s own.

    Reply
  • Brian Anthony
    July 12, 2006, 3:03 pm

    Dump Dairy. Dump beef. Every form of the animal is poison to the voice. Most cows have so many modifications in their biological makeup that it’s no wonder our bodies can’t take it. I know, I love cheese too. Try it from goats, buffalo (Mozzarella) or any other animal but cows. Also, at least 4 hours before a recording, avoid any food that has tiny little bits in it like seeds, shredded coconut, nuts, oats, bran, etc. Roughage is great for cleaning the system when we are not recording, but it will cause choking when we are trying record. Avoid salt, sugar and caffeine… all produce a time-bomb effect and can make a nightmare out of your voice acting. From experience… Love Brian

    Reply
  • Jim Thomas
    July 14, 2006, 7:18 pm

    I do something similar to what Pamela does: leaning over a sink, I inhale warm (not hot) salt water into my nose but then spit it out into the sink.
    Also, I am a firm believer in the Chinese herb, Yin Chiao. Whole Foods suggests Dr. Shen’s version as it has the least heavy metals as other brands. Follow the directions on the bottle and impending colds vanish.

    Reply
  • Diane Herman
    March 14, 2007, 11:34 am

    Has anyone had any experience using Salagen when the concert room you are to sing in is very dry?

    Reply
  • Johnnie DeSantis
    April 7, 2007, 2:50 pm

    Does anyone know if drawn butter with crabs eaten five to six hours before a performance will effect my voice?

    Reply
  • Jenoah
    October 25, 2008, 9:10 pm

    Someone told me about hot cheetos or hot chips with lemon juice. Suppose to eat the chips first to pull all the phlegm down and the lemon juice to smooth it out. Try srceaming too after for 5 minutes ( in a normal high key voice) and then rest your voice for two nights… I felt a lil difference in my singing

    Reply
  • George Younker
    March 11, 2009, 9:22 pm

    Meloids.—Throat lozenges— I have just received several new packages of Meloids that I purchased from http://www.yartook.com located in Thailand. It took 16 days for them to arrive in the mail. It is the only place I found I could buy them. Good Luck

    Reply
  • RGranger
    March 23, 2009, 3:57 pm

    Regarding those who inhale salt water. There is a product on the market called Simply Saline that comes in a pressurized can and a long thin nozzle that will fit well up into your nose. I swear by the stuff. Cleans out your sinuses and helps fight off colds. WalMart or CVS etc. carries it. Also comes in a menthol … don’t care for that one but you might want to try it.

    Reply
  • Robert Rhodes
    June 22, 2010, 9:42 am

    Recently viewed a television documentary on Paverotti who always carried a tin of Meloids.
    His representrative stated that they were now banned as they contained too much menthol.
    It wasn’t clear if he was banned from using them or if they were banned from production.
    Any news on whether they are still available in U.K.

    Reply
  • Jordan Tibo
    December 4, 2010, 10:31 pm

    I just wanted to make a point about cough drops. Ricola is definitely the way to go! These are the only cough drops I use, especially before a performance. The reason is that Ricola’s do NOT contain any menthol, which according to many people, including my highly respected College Choir Teacher, is vital. Menthol tends to actually dry your vocal chords out, which is a vary bad thing, so stay away from cough drops that contain menthol, such as Halls.

    Reply
  • Rebecca Rulo
    February 4, 2012, 5:08 pm

    To keep your voice/mouth from sounding wet, eat an apple. Picked this up from broadcasting school.

    Reply
  • C. Thomas
    February 27, 2012, 1:22 pm

    I am a singing and this is what has worked for me
    An teaspoon or more of olive oil in some ice cold water.
    Whenever needed.
    I know, I know ice cold water? Is she crazy?
    Here’s why……
    You put ice on swollen muscles…Right?
    Your vocal cords are muscles
    So that’s how I treat it.
    When performing I always have ice cold water in the wings.
    It works for me give it a try it can hurt.

    Reply
  • Darlene
    January 7, 2019, 4:01 pm

    Re: Meloids – I relied on these when doing public speaking and dealing with a cold/urge to cough, etc. When I could no longer find them in the local drug store, I switched to Potters – same size, same taste, same benefit. (Not as convenient a dispenser, though).

    Reply
  • Punna Vijaya Laxmi
    August 3, 2020, 11:38 am

    I what to audio e-books job .I do work Telugu type high speed.

    Reply
    • Oliver Skinner
      August 11, 2020, 11:32 am

      When you sign up for a Voices talent account, you’ll be able to list the languages you speak and the categories of voice over work that you specialize in directly on your profile. That way, when clients are searching for a voice actor who can provide an audiobook performance in Telugu, your profile and demos will be showcased.

      Best,
      Oliver

      Reply
  • Zi Gines
    August 23, 2020, 11:10 pm

    Hi,
    Your tips are wicked helpful. I am a novice low in voice acting, but I am bloody interested to make this a serious career. Thank you for sharing such an informative topic to help us prepare and help preserve our voice.
    Cheerio!
    Zi

    Reply
    • Oliver Skinner
      August 24, 2020, 9:38 am

      Hey there,

      I’d suggest starting out by taking a look through our Beginner’s Guide to Voice Acting to familiarize yourself with today’s voice over industry, and then following that with our onboarding video series about getting set up with Voices.

      Once you feel ready, you can sign up for a Voices account to begin auditioning for the voice over work listed on our platform.

      Reply
  • Bindu
    September 9, 2020, 12:22 am

    I talk to telugu

    Reply
    • Oliver Skinner
      September 10, 2020, 10:09 am

      Hi Bindu,

      When you sign up for a Voices talent account, you’ll be able to list the fact that you’re a Telugu-speaking voice actor directly on your profile.

      Reply